Living in the present moment demands truth and love; one does not exist without the other. Yet I see many faith-filled people ignoring the present truth of our country. Some desire a rosy Christian past to return. Some anticipate a future of a totally Christianized country. Yet we need to plant our feet firmly in the present and see and respect the beauty and holiness and diversity of the sacred people who live in this present moment of our country's life.
At the same present time we need to recognize and be true to our unique birthright - which happens to be the bedrock of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths: our belief in the absolute eternal value of all people as sons and daughters of God, a value and truth that can be lost in a culture that includes members who do not value all lives as being equally important. God calls us to live, speak, and share our faith with love, and work to defend all those who live without voices. A delicate balancing act indeed!
Many of us Christians live among and work with people who are Christians and have never met people, let alone really talked in depth, with people from a different culture or non-Christian faith. Or talked at length with any of the atheists, agnostics, or "post-Christians" whose numbers are growing in the Western world, many of whom live rational, meaningful, virtuous lives.
I myself, living in a very Christian area of Buffalo, was amazed when my son who lives and works in New York City brought in greeting cards and checks for a fund-raiser for his brother who later died from cancer, and the cards and checks were signed by people from unbelievably diverse heritages, every nation and religious tradition you can imagine. I felt my understanding of community broaden immensely. How important it is to respect and value the many people who worship God in so many different ways.
Yet the other, equally true, aspect is that as Christians, it is our social responsibility and moral duty to evangelize, with our words and our lives, and so awaken in others a love of the true and the good, a spiritual search for God. How often, living in the present moment, are we fearful of revealing what we believe when we are with friends? How often do we compromise our beliefs in order to "fit in"? It is a delicate balancing act to respect another's faith tradition or lack of one, yet speak the Gospel with our lives and be available to calmly, clearly, and lovingly discuss the reasons for our hope in Christ.
We forget many of the triggers that cause agnostics, atheists, and post-Christians to see no necessity for belief in God. Many find the Christian message of a god who became man, died to save all humanity, and rose again, absolutely monstrous, scandalous, and bizarre. Others struggle with the problem of evil. Still others think that science explains everything or that science and belief in God cannot co-exist.
Engaging in deep, mutually respectful conversation with non-believers challenges our own beliefs. How deeply do we have faith that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine? How deep is our hope that there is life after death, where eternal justice will reign, and that we will finally see God face to face and experience how God transforms suffering into joy? How deeply can we see that Truth is Truth, that the facts uncovered by the various sciences should simply enlighten and enrich all truths of our faith? Most of all, do we know our Faith well enough to explain what we believe?
As Christians, working for the common good in a diverse culture, we come to the table with a unique moral perspective. If it's the absolute truth that all human beings are all sons and daughters of God, with the dignity that comes with that truth, then as Christians we have the responsibility of ensuring that society treats all human life, especially vulnerable human life, with dignity.
Our culture has lost sight of the idea that there is absolute truth about anything. There are Professors of ethics who believe that certain lives, especially people who, in their eyes, cannot contribute to the good of society - such as the mentally or physically disabled or ill, the elderly, the unwanted unborn, prisoners, or the poor - should simply be physically eliminated. If it is the absolute truth that all human life has eternal value, Christians have the obligation to defend and care for God's children who have no voice or standing in the community.
Each one of us needs to pray, to search Scripture, to do spiritual reading, to learn what our individual Christian communities teach and have to offer. Each one of us needs to be open, welcoming, loving and understanding of all whom we meet and greet. In this way, our country can become a place where all God's children are treated with respect and love as eternal treasure.